The year was 1909 when leaders of the North-American Interfraternity Conference, an umbrella organization that governs over fraternities, met to “address the evils of pledgeship.” The first item on the agenda was hazing. Hazing is not a new issue. However, the rapid adoption of smart phones and other new forms of communication has made it much more visible to the public eye. This is evidenced by an analysis by Google Ngram, which found that the mention of the word hazing in published books has steadily risen by around 204% since 1980.
As the former Interfraternity Council president, I can assuredly say that hazing is alive and well at the University of Texas at Austin. In the past year alone the Texas Cowboys, ATO and SAE have all been suspended or abolished for hazing that occurred within their organizations. In addition to this, according to the Office of the Dean of Students, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Alpha Sigma Rho, Delta Sigma Phi, Kappa Alpha Order, Omega Phi Gamma, Phi Kappa Psi, Sigma Alpha Mu, Sigma Chi, Sigma Lambda Gamma, Texas Iron Spikes and Undergraduate Business Council have all been sanctioned by the University for hazing. Hazing is present in all types of organizations on campus, as evidenced by an Austin American-Statesman article citing a 2018 survey of UT students in which 26.9% of UT students reported being victims of hazing in a diverse array of student organizations.
As long as hazing exists at UT, students will never be safe. We will only put a stop to hazing when we are willing and able to call it what it is: a flagrant violation of human rights and a willful disregard for human dignity. It is the willful ignorance of those who are a part of organizations that haze and do nothing to stop it that enables hazing to continue to proliferate on the 40 Acres. As the old saying goes, all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. It is time for the good men and women at UT to stand up and act to stop hazing on our campus. This is something I was confronted with time and again while serving as the President of the Interfraternity Council this past year. My executive board and I worked hard to stamp out hazing amongst our member chapters. However, there were limits to the extent of our oversight because the council operates separately from the University’s student conduct board. It is time to reform these processes. We must take a stand against hazing in our organizations and reform them to prevent the deaths of innocent students across campus.
I call on the UT administration to establish more stringent oversight of student organizations by interweaving student organizations with the Student Conduct Board. All registered student organizations should be required to appoint a member to sit on a new, larger board that would serve alongside the student conduct board, with special emphasis on social, Greek and athletic organizations that have a history of hazing offenses. This body would be specifically tasked with preventing, educating on and adjudicating hazing. These efforts, in conjunction with movements such as Horns Against Hazing, will, over time, drastically reduce incidences of hazing.
If you belong to an organization that hazes and you are reading this, know that your organization’s days are numbered, and you could soon face criminal charges. Every day the world is becoming a more unforgiving place towards acts of hazing, and those who perpetrate them.
Driscoll is a science and technology management and government senior from Austin.